I wasn’t going to go out on the bike today. The forecast wasn’t looking that bright, so I’d set my mind to have a chilled out day, reading my book and bike mag. When I woke this morning, (cheers, Ellen!) the day wasn’t as bleak as I expected.
I had some breakfast and thought, what the hell, I’ll go out. Then it started to rain harder. Ellen appeared and suggested I have a cig and another coffee then make my mind up. I wheeled Smoggy (my faithful F650GS) back into the garage and did exactly that. By 10.30 I was twitching. Yep, time to go.
Smoggy’s top box was filled with a cool bag and shopping bag. Off we went. Destination, Gloagburn for a bite of lunch. For sure, if you want to know the best places to go for coffee and treats, ask a biker! I went down to Lochearnhead and enjoyed the lovely, lush new tarmac on the Crieff road. Just lovely. It was dry too, which was even better!
For some odd reason, my back tyre had lost a bit of pressure since leaving home. How strange. Oh well, a grand excuse to go and see Jim at Strathearn Tyres for a bit of air and a blether. It’s always entertaining talking to Jim. People think he’s a grumpy git, but he’s not. He’s got a great sense of humour. We shared a good chat about people not respecting new tyres, especially in the rain. I had recently had a bad experience on Ruby with a new back tyre; it wasn’t pretty, I couldn’t persuade myself to relax on the greasy roads. Another topic we shared, was the corner after Lix Toll where the trees have been chopped down. It’s really weird; it took me ages to get used to it. It seemed like the corners and straight had changed somehow. We also both agreed that when the straight was covered in trees, it seemed longer. Not a bad thing having something like that change, it’s made me reconsider the bends and it’s oddly, slowed me down a wee bitty. One thing is for sure, it’s a truly cracking view up the glen when you come round the corner after Lix Toll!
Smoggy and I headed off by the back roads through to Gloagburn. It was great, the roads were quiet and dry, which I was quite surprised about. I had left home wearing a thermal layer, it was 11 degrees when I left. It was a balmy 16 near Perth. A bite of lunch and a wee bit of shopping; filled my top box. I wasn’t sure what way I wanted to go home, however, the big pile of rain over the Crieff / Comrie direction helped me make my mind up.
We headed over to the Sma’ Glen, via Glenalmond. It was great, not much traffic and DRY! There’s a stretch of road down to Aberfeldy that’s been resurfaced and not re-lined. It gives you the feeling that there’s still a temporary topping on it with those minute bits of gravel that are lethal on a bike. I was cautious.
Kenmore and a blast home via Loch Tay. When I head east from home, this is one of my favourite routes. You can’t lose concentration for a minute though. There are all sorts of hazards which include: suicidal sheep, farmers on quads that have a different highway code, sheepdog on the back of the quad having a great time. Smell that? Fresh earth on the road round the bend, yep, take care. There’s also areas where the road narrows where two cars can’t pass very easily. It’s fine if you’re on a bike though…. Squirrels, of the red variety – don’t squish them and the largest hazard of all; tourists.
It’s such a lovely flowing road. It’s not the flattest, smoothest road, but it’s just great fun. I’m glad I was on full alert. I came round a narrow part of the road, just before the turn off to the Morenish Lodges and a tourist pulls out from the junction and just keeps coming…. BRAKE! HARD! As much as Smoggy has a single brake disc on the front, by gum they work well when you have to come to a stop. I had to come to a stop. I saw the whites of the driver’s eyes.
Hopefully, the next time, he’ll look twice for bikes.
Once again, it’s such a good thing to go to skills days to enhance your motorcycle control. Knowing just how hard you can brake and knowing the capabilities of your machine is vital. A motorcycle can stop pretty darn quickly, that’s for sure. Advanced motorcyclists (and drivers) follow the mantra of: “Ride at a speed that you can safely stop in the distance you can see to be clear on your side of the road”. Too right. But do yourself a favour and find out just how good your brakes are. It’s one of the massive benefits of being an IAM member, being able to attend training / skills sessions being mentored by some cracking folk.
So, heading down into Killin, still on high alert for tourists and red squirrels. I passed by the golf club, over the wee bridge at the Bridge of Lochay Hotel. There was a red car starting to reverse on the opposite side of the road. I throttled off. She wasn’t stopping. Brake. She kept on coming. Didn’t have a clue. I came to a stop, she was still coming back onto my side of the road. I hit my horn. That’s when she saw me. She was about 2 feet from my front tyre. So, if there’s a little red car still parked opposite the hotel, at the side of the road, go and see she’s alright and hasn’t had a heart attack! Then there’s the other mantra that’s hammered into us: “What you can see; what you can’t see and what you can reasonably expect to develop”.
Hopefully she’ll look for bikes the next time.
So, coming into Killin, I saw a gorgeous wee red squirrel. SQUIRREL! I did shout it out in my helmet. It scampered off up the tree. Really gorgeous wee creature. Alive and well in Killin.
Killin. The bridge. Tourists. There were two cars parked outside the Mill Shop. Fair enough, there weren’t double yellow lines, however, given the traffic coming into the village over the bridge have priority, I had to stop well in advance of the bridge to allow the 3 cars to pass the inconsiderately parked ones. Idiots. One of the locals did have a brief rant about it as she passed by. I commented about the lack of signage. The lamppost has been replaced. They’ve forgotten to replace the all important sign, idiots:.
It was still dry. What a joy. After months of really shocking weather, it was such a bonus. A great decision to go on a Smoggy adventure. We do excellent adventures together…. so, nearly home. I was still on high alert. Making good progress, I was ready for an overtake. Taken in all the information, correct position, in a responsive gear. The way was clear and that instinct kicked in; yep, the Mercedes AMG in front of me pulled out. I was already on the offside of the road. Ok, mate, crack on. On the next straight, he took the Highland Heritage bus, then slowed down substantially. He hadn’t seen me when he pulled out to overtake. That was obvious. I honked past him. At 60mph, of course.
Through the bends, I had an ‘aye, aye’ moment as it started to drizzle. Sodding typical. Only a wee drizzle though.
Crianlarich. 30mph. Approaching the bypass. Three cars wheeched round from the Glasgow road and again, my natural instinct kicked in. Just as well really. The thing is, the bypass is NSL (National Speed Limit). People hoof down the hill, see the roundabout, don’t brake enough and get a bloody surprise when out pops a bike from the village. It’s a roundabout to be respected. You can’t see the cars from the Glasgow side; they can’t see you coming from the village. The red car, yes, another red car got a hell of a fright when she saw me. Luckily I saw her. I was ready to stop on my way round. She managed to stop after the give way paint.
Hopefully she’ll look for bikes the next time.
For my readers that don’t know what SMIDSY means: “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You”. There have been so many accidents on the A82 and the A85 this year, it’s scary. Fair enough, people probably do use their mirrors. However, what they don’t take into consideration is the amount of safe progress (most) motorcyclists can make. We can nip in and out of traffic; cars can’t fit in the same gaps. So, watch your mirrors, remember, it’s ‘mirror, signal, maneuver’ not just pull out and hope for the best.
Maybe I should consider a red bike, so it’s obvious? Maybe I should wear more obvious bike gear? Hell, I have red bikes, the most impractically coloured bike gear, which by all accounts is seldom missed; given the amount of times I’m spotted by friends. Maybe I had my Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak on? Whatever, I thank the IAM for all the training I’ve had. Thank you to all those special people that have made me a safer rider; you know who you are.
The most dangerous part of your journey is on the parts when you’re close to home. Sometimes, you’re tired. It may have been a long, frustrating journey. Don’t, just don’t lose concentration, whilst you dream about that cuppa or, for me, that glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Luckily, I appreciate the ignorance, lack of education and lack of awareness that some car drivers have. I’m alive; I intend to be so for a long time to come.
Ride safe all. Drive safe. Pay attention to your mirrors and anticipate ANYTHING that might arise. It’ll keep you alive and most importantly, be a thinking rider or driver.